One City

A few weeks ago, I freaked out…on a cat. Granted, the cat was being an asshole- yes, cats can be assholes, but my reaction caught me completely off guard. I experienced a sudden surge of anger and it obviously wasn’t about the cat…or just about the cat. Upon closer examination, it was probably about something that happened weeks before. I normally consider myself pretty self aware, so it’s been on my mind ever since. I’ve been wondering if I’ve been using Buddhist compassion and lovingkindness to cover up some underlying anger or just skipping past feeling angry altogether.

I don’t think I’ve ever been a particularly angry person and since I’ve started meditating, I experience anger even less often. Small offenses (like someone shoving me on the subway) don’t produce the reaction they used to. Instead of getting pissed off, I think- that person must be having an awful day and I hope it gets better for them. I think these types of reactions represent some personal growth and progress. But what about when the offense is more severe and personal- like finding out your girlfriend has been cheating on you? Wouldn’t anger be a completely valid response? I think my initial reaction to offenses such as these is hurt, followed by an attempt to understand their side of the story. People have told me that I’m too forgiving and my answer is usually that feeling angry takes a lot of energy and quite simply, it feels bad. However, as my cat freak out suggests, anger, when not experienced, doesn’t disappear, it gets repressed and triggered by something completely random. I’ve come to the realization that not feeling angry can be a bit of a cop out and rather lazy.
So…I think being compassionate and forgiving is a fine goal, but I’ve been making an equal effort to sit with anger when it comes up. This doesn’t mean acting on it, though it does sometimes include telling someone- I’m angry with you and this is why. I don’t think that’s being a bad Buddhist, it’s being honest and hopefully it leads to less anger down the road. I think women especially are susceptible to the idea that anger is best kept under wraps- an angry woman is still often viewed as hysterical or a bitch, even when her anger is completely justified. My forgiving attitude is connected to the belief that people (and maybe even cats) are generally good and don’t mean to cause suffering, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t all mess up from time to time (in ways big and small). I’m now attempting to treat my anger with less aversion and more respect and only then, letting it go.

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